When many people think of herbs, what comes to mind are the spices or flavorings added to culinary creations. Some of the most common herbs may be the best kept secret in your pantry, doubling as medicinal solutions for what ails you.
The concept of using herbs medicinally for healing purposes has been widely explored over the years. From film and literature to pop culture, we see healers concocting ointments and balms to heal and help. Some fictional stories suggest that sacred plants have the power to cure more than illness or disease but had a supernatural quality to them as well. Other historical references describe these plants as medicine to be consumed along with food. Even in a science-based society, there’s no denying the health benefits and healing properties of certain plants.
Medicinal plants and herbs were used as tonics or immune support remedies for thousands of years. Some of the earliest instances of healing herbs predate the creation of language and were orally passed from generation to generation. Many cultures have their own knowledge of healing plants and herbs, from the Egyptian Plantago to Indian Turmeric. Today, scientists and health experts alike have been able to evaluate the health benefits of common herbs and spices and apply the useful old remedies to supplement modern medicine.
“The health benefits of our ancient herbs are amazing,” says the owner of Sevananda Natural Foods Market. “When the body is injured, ailing or beginning to fail, the natural healing components of herbs become an easy and natural way to boost the body’s immunities and provide a remedy for illness.” Located in Atlanta, Georgia, the health store is a repository for locally sourced, organic health foods and products.
Medicinal herbs are rich in vitamins, often containing vitamins A, C and K. Many spicy or strongly flavored herbs provide protective polyphenols, a type of natural compound that infuses the body with a rush of antioxidants. Polyphenols also create anti-inflammatory effects, reducing swelling in the body that hinders proper digestion, causes joint pain, and encourages bloating.
Another excellent benefit of herbal plants is their ability to destroy harmful bacteria. Some astringent herbs, including basil and lemongrass, have surprising anti-microbial properties. Used regularly, they may have the ability to protect against illness and infection.
Herbs can be prepared in various ways for medicinal use—consumed raw, cooked, or made into tinctures, salves and tonics. Many professionals recommend eating raw leaves and roots to raise concentration levels in the body.
Millions of Americans have used at least one herbal remedy to assist with a health concern, and the ways to access them continue to grow as access to online herbalists increases and local grocers and health stores begin carrying the natural remedies.
Here are 10 important medicinal herbs to keep on hand for a better healing process.
This South Asian native has been used for thousands of years by druid healers and herbalists. The plant is sometimes referred to as Indian ginseng or Indian winter cherry, and it appears to be a short, scrubby, evergreen bush.
This herb has been noted for its ability to reduce cortisol, a hormone that causes stress in the body. Consuming it in capsule, tincture, or tea form may have the ability to reduce anxiety, increase adaptogen presence, and lower inflammation.
These white flowers can be grown in many US states and are widely cultivated as a tea herb. Chamomile’s largest claim to fame is the ability to improve the healing process, reduce inflammation, and mitigate swelling. Recent studies suggest that this plant may be used in the following ways:
Lavender is one of the most popular herbs of the 21st century. This fragrant flower can improve memory, enhance sleep, and reduce the effects of insomnia. Lavender is often applied as a spray, lotion, or essential oil, and the buds themselves are quite versatile.
When healing scratches, cuts, and bruises, calendula is one of the best and most popular herbs for the job. Its ability to reduce topical swelling and cramps has long been noted by professional practitioners.
Not only does this herb pair well with fish and pork, but its surprising benefits to oral health and blood sugar spikes make it a must-have in every cabinet.
6. Aloe Vera
A single aloe vera leaf has the power to heal even the most painful of sunburns. The thick, gooey interior may also soothe peeling and itching and reduce the pain and damage of other second-degree burns.
Widely used in various cuisines, garlic offers both powerful immune support and cardiovascular benefits. Because of its astringent nature, garlic may also act as an antifungal and antibacterial remedy.
This tangy root may reduce the effects of chronic illnesses, including arthritis and residual cancer growth. It may also be used as an anti-nausea remedy.
9. Milk Thistle
Used primarily for GI tract issues, milk thistle is often taken to mitigate the effects of liver pain and gallbladder disorders. Additional studies indicate that milk thistle may also be used to treat diabetes, but more evidence will be needed.
The consumption of gingko biloba has been linked to many mental health benefits, including anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia.
Stock your medicine cabinet with these 10 herbs to support a healthier, more holistic lifestyle.